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Sex is a coffee table book written by Madonna, with photographs taken by Steven Meisel Studio and film frames shot by Fabien Baron. The book was edited by Glenn O'Brien and was released on October 21, 1992, by Warner Books, Maverick and Callaway Books. Approached with an idea for a book on erotic photographs, Madonna expanded on the idea and conceived the book and its content. Shot in early 1992 in New York City and Miami, the locations ranged from hotels and burlesque theaters, to the streets of Miami. The photographs were even stolen before publishing, but were quickly recovered.
The book had a range of influences – from punk rock to earlier fashion iconoclasts like Guy Bourdin and his surrealism, and Helmut Newton, in its stylized, sado-masochistic look. Sex has photographs that feature adult content and softcore pornographic as well as simulations of sexual acts, including sadomasochism and analingus. Madonna wrote the book as a character named "Mistress Dita", inspired by 1930s film actress Dita Parlo. It also includes cameos by actress Isabella Rossellini, rappers Big Daddy Kane and Vanilla Ice, model Naomi Campbell, gay porn star Joey Stefano, actor Udo Kier, socialite Tatiana von Fürstenberg, and nightclub owner Ingrid Casares.
For the release of Sex Madonna gave a party at New York City’s Industria Superstudio, which she attended dressed as Little Bo Peep with a stuffed toy lamb.
Aside from Steven Meisel himself, photographers from his studio were also employed. The book credits Michael Stratton, Darren Lew, Line Barzudkas, Stephen Callaghan and Chris Hobson. Fabien Baron, one of the book’s designers, also shot many of the photo sessions on film (mostly on Super 8 mm). Many stills from Baron’s film were used in the book. Filming was done entirely on Super 8mm, and the filmmakers were Fabien Baron, Stephen Callaghan and Darren Lew.
Many of the photos in the book Sex are actually stills. Photographers from Steven Meisel Studio shot many of the sessions with regular photography, while fashion photographer Fabian Baron, Stephen Callaghan and Darren Lew shot a number of the sessions on video, including super 8 mm.
Much of this footage was utilized for the video for the single Erotica, which Baron directed. An hour of this footage was then compiled for a film that Madonna had played during a party she gave for the release of Sex at New York City's Industria Superstudio. Madonna also had 100 copies of the film made to give to her closest friends. This film boasted a soundtrack of vintage French chansons from the 1930s through the 1960s by such singers as Charles Trenet, Gilbert Bécaud, Charles Aznavour, Johnny Hallyday, Édith Piaf, Françoise Hardy, Maurice Chevalier and Joséphine Baker. The Making of Sex occasionally a copy of the film will still turn up for sale. Copies of the original 60-minute edit with the original French noir soundtrack once went for prices as high as $1250 US$—even more expensive than the book itself.
The extremely controversial book was received negatively by both critics and fans of the singer, who felt she had gone too far. Despite this it was a commercial success, managing to sell over 150,000 copies on its first day of release and topped The New York Times Best Seller list. It has become one of the most sought-after out-of-print books. Throughout the years critical reception towards Sex has become more positive, with academics deeming the book, as well as this particular period of Madonna's life, as one of the most defining phases of the artist. Sex is noted for its impact on society, culture as well as on Madonna herself, and is considered a bold, post-feminist, work of art.